BY JIDE AJANI
Democracy is good for Nigerians; but are Nigerians good for democracy? Ponder that! In the introduction to ‘THE POLITICS BOOK’, the following observations are made: “If everyone could have everything they wanted whenever they wanted, there would be no such thing as politics. Whatever the precise meaning of the complex activity known as politics might be, it is clear that human experience never provides us with everything we want. Instead, we have to compete, struggle, compromise, and, sometimes fight for things.
In so doing, we develop a language to explain and justify our claims and to challenge, contradict, or answer the claims of others – this might be a language of interests, whether of individuals or groups, or it might be a language of values, such as rights and liberties or fair shares and justice.”
Now, in the pursuit of values such as rights and liberties or fair shares and justice, moralism and realism become two key components to align with.
Between the concepts of political moralism and political realism, there is a need to step back and explain which is better and which is achievable.
It is considered that at its most radical, political moralism “produces descriptions of ideal political societies known as Utopia, named after English statesman and philosopher, Thomas More’s book, Utopia, published in 1516.”
But some theorists are said to be of the view that Utopian political thinking is a dangerous – very dangerous – undertaking, as it has led in the past to justifications of totalitarian violence.
“At best”, however, “Utopian thinking is part of a process of striving towards a better society” because of values to be pursued and protected.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari, chanting the mantra of anti-corruption in the last 100 days may, indeed, be striving towards the enthronement of a better society.
Even his body language alone speaks and determines volumes in Nigeria’s political sphere. But he has opened himself to needless attacks in the last one week over the lopsidedness of appointments. He has promised to do better.
It was Plato who said until philosophers are kings, cities will never have rest from their evils. In saying so, he attempted to explain the need for men of wisdom and deep thinking to ascend the leadership of a country. His explanation was as simple as demonstrated thus: The role of rulers is to ensure that the people follow the “good life”; knowing what “the good life” is requires intellectual ability and knowledge of ethics and morality; only philosophers have this ability and knowledge; and, therefore, political power should only be given to philosophers. This is, it is then contended, because until philosophers are kings, cities will never have rest from their evils.
Buhari may have started well with his body language which has suggested to all that he would not tolerate any form of thiefry. But with the appointments so far made, he may be attempting to supplant one form of societal evil with another form.
In John Stuart Mill’s PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, we are made to understand that human improvement has no tendency to correct the intensely selfish feelings engendered by power.
In Mill’s estimation, this is the warped and bleached version of the modus operandi of the Wantoks of Papua New Guinea (the Wantoks are the ‘big men’ who accumulate state resources any which way and then redistribute via patronizing schemes that keep their people in perpetual servitude), a paradigm that has long crept into the Nigerian polity because our politicians are yet to come to terms with the lesson that the welfare of a nation must rest on the justice and judicious self-determination of its citizens, stemming from a fair allocation of resources and appointments.
No matter the good Buhari is seeking, his sense of fairness and judgment is today seeking cover – that is without prejudice to the issue of merit upon which some of the appointments have been made.
For the sake of Nigerians, Buhari’s six months in office should not replicate the downturn suffered by his predecessor who, within the same period, the massive goodwill he garnered headed for the bottom of the sea. To avoid this, the President would need to tone down the vuvuzela of anti-corruption – he should allow the agencies to do their work and slam the robbers in our midst in jail and stop the daily mantra of ‘we shall jail thieves’.
The more critical engagement for this administration, which his predecessor missed, was wise counsel. Not being a philosopher, Buhari would need to rely on unadulterated pieces of advice from people who are not only sensible but strategic in operations – the sudden publication of the assets declared by the President and the Vice President couldn’t have come at any other strategic moment (eve of 100days in office with the noise from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that nothing has been achieved).
Has the Code of Conduct Bureau finished its verification or what has changed between the time of the private declaration and last Thursday when Aso Rock made it public? But this is what strategy is all about. Jonathan refused to meet parents of the CHIBOK girls for weeks but BUHARI symbolically met with them in his first 20days in office. That is leadership. His meeting with them has not caused the girls to be released but he has given hope to the parents and restored a sense of value and decency.
While we cannot hold down Buhari in 100days for a job of four years, Nigerians, especially those with the voice, should at least keep Mr. President on a leash. What has happened – and strangely so – in the last 100 days is the emerging conspiracy of silence. Those who should speak against the missteps of Buhari are keeping quiet in the hope (more than the belief) that they would get appointments. That was how Jonathan was led down the path of ignominy.
Finally, democracy is not about keeping quiet when what is going wrong suits our whims. It is about standing up for what is right always.
What you are about to read is largely the ruling party’s view of 100days in office. The opposition PDP says it will respond next week.